A Universal Tree of Life

Molecular homology, genes shared due to common ancestry, is a powerful tool for reconstructing the history of life. A small fraction of the research in molecular phylogeny is concerned with tracing all life to a common ancestor, or population of ancestors. Explore Evolution ignores the bulk of research in molecular evolution to focus on this narrow topic.

Even within this overly-narrow focus, the treatment is deeply inaccurate. The farther back in time a common ancestor would be, the more opportunities there have been for statistical noise to obscure the evolutionary signal. Explore Evolution emphasizes these more complicated issues, and misrepresents the views of scientists like Michael Lynch, Carl Woese, Michael Syvanen, and Michael Gordon who have addressed the shape of the early tree of life.

Whether or not there was one origin of life or several, the best available science indicates that all modern life descended from a single population of organisms. The species in this ancestral population would have shared genes so readily that the entire population can be treated as the ancestor of modern life. Explore Evolution muddles this new field of research, proposing instead a set of entirely separate trees, a vision of life tendered only by creationists, not by any active researchers in the field.

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